1.You shall have no other gods before me.
2.You shall not
misuse the name of the LORD your God.
Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
fatherand your mother.
5.You shall not
6.You shall not
7.You shall not
8.You shall not
give false testimony against your neighbor.
9.You shall not
covet your neighbor's house.
10.You shall not
covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or
anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The School and the Ten Commandments
Posted April 3, 2002, thepeoplesvoice.org
By: Rev. Kara Mueller
Most of us know
them but many North Carolina public school children are getting to know them a lot better. In the NC Student Citizen Act of 2001 it became
legal to post the Ten Commandments in N.C. public school classrooms, and many teachers
have chosen to do so. Governor Michael Easley
signed this bill on August 10, 2001.
The bill allows
for schools and teachers to post documents of historical significance. With a Supreme Court decision (Stone v. Graham)
in 1980 which struck down a Kentucky law requiring the posting of the 10 commandments in
classrooms, because it is undeniably a sacred text, you would think the State
of North Carolinas representatives would spend their time making more valuable
amendments. Like in the NC bill, in the
Kentucky case, it was also noted that the commandments display was to illustrate the
history of American Law, even with that stipulation the Supreme Court rejected it. Here is a portion of the NC bill and the amendment
that allows for the posting of the Ten Commandments (Portions in red are the newly amended
SECTION 2.(d) G.S.
115C-81(g) is amended by adding a new subdivision to read:
local school administrative unit may display on real property controlled by that local
school administrative unit documents and objects of historical significance that have
formed and influenced the United States legal or governmental system and that exemplify
the development of the rule of law, such as the Magna Carta, the Mecklenburg Declaration,
the Ten Commandments, the Justinian Code, and documents set out in subdivision (3a) of
this subsection. This display may include,
but shall not be limited to, documents that contain words associated with a religion;
provided however, no display shall seek to establish or promote religion or to persuade
any person to embrace a particular religion, denomination of a religion, or other
philosophy. The display of a document
containing words associated with a religion shall be in the same manner and appearance
generally as other documents and objects displayed and shall not be presented or displayed
in any fashion that results in calling attention to it apart from the other displayed
documents and objects. The display also shall be accompanied by a prominent sign quoting
the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as follows: 'Congress shall make no
law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.' "
SECTION 3. If any provision of this act is declared unconstitutional or invalid by
the courts, it does not affect the validity of this act as a whole or any part other than
the part so declared to be unconstitutional or invalid.
How can the display of this pivotal piece of religious
doctrine not promote Abrahamic faiths, or persuade children to embrace them? Many young children look up to their teachers. Teachers act as role models, particularly in the
elementary grades, and are often able to spend more waking time with a child then their
As young children learn to read they pay special attention
to their classroom posters and art. What
happens when a young child from a polytheistic religion, such as Hinduism, reads
commandment number one: You shall have no other gods before me. How is
this going to make that child feel? This
commandment discriminates against any follower of a polytheistic faith or any person that
doesnt follow the god of Abraham. This
commandment will likely similarly affect children from secular, Humanist, Agnostic, or
Atheist families. The American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) believes, "The Ten Commandments advocate believing in God,
observing the Sabbath and not worshipping idols. Those are religious beliefs, which
citizens are free to hold or not; they are not the proper subject of governmental
Based on a message from the State of North Carolina Office
of the Governor, The bill provides that schools may post documents of historical
significance that formed and influenced the United States legal or governmental
system. This argument for the
posting of the 10 commandments has become a lot more popular, post September 11, with the
scripture appearing in monument form at schools and courthouses as a show of patriotism. Despite American historians saying there is no
proof the 10 commandments had any more influence over the American governmental system
that any other moral code. The ACLU states,
Although the Ten Commandments are a part of our legal history, they are hardly the
basis of our laws. Laws commanding persons which God to worship, whether and how God
should be worshiped, or prohibiting graven images are clearly contradictory to our
Constitution, as would be laws setting an official Sabbath or telling citizens not have
covetous thoughts. Prohibitions against stealing, lying, killing and adultery are common
to most legal codes-including those predating Christianity-and are not exclusive to the
How many N.C.
teachers are posting the Ten Commandments in their class? A middle school teacher from eastern North
Carolina estimates that 15% of teaches have a copy of the Ten Commandants posted in their
classrooms. The same teacher estimates that,
prior to 9-11, 1% of the classes had American flags (post 9-11 that number has risen to
about 35%). Interestingly, this teacher
states that teachers in her school system are not allowed to lead the Pledge of
Allegiance. In her school system if the Pledge of Allegiance is to be given it must fist
be requested by a student and also lead by a student.
Whats was more disturbing, this teacher said approximately 30% of the
teachers in her school always keep a bible openly visible in the classroom; these numbers
jump to as high as 60% if you include devotional and prayer books.
The prominent display of such basic tenants of Abrahamic
faiths can make a young child feel as though something is wrong with their faith; that it
isn't "special" enough to get such distinction from the teacher. Children
from minority faiths are often singled out for being different often enough by peers, they
should not feel similar disapproval from their instructors, authority figures, and someone
they can not help to look up to and seek approval from.
With religious doctrine forbidden to be taught by teachers
in N.C. public schools, how is a teacher supposed to address questions about the Ten
Commandments without getting into a theological discussion?
According to the ACLU, School teachers and administrators--when acting in
those capacities--are agents of the government and are restricted from using their
government derived powers to further their personal religious views, including displaying
the Ten Commandments in their offices, classrooms, or on their desks.
states that he signed the bill on August 10, 2001 because it is imperative to create
the best possible environment for learning in North Carolinas public schools.
Governor Easley also believes that some
students have little exposure to good citizenship values outside of school and that
House Bill 195 encourages values for NC public students.
The August 2001 bill would have better embraced good citizenship by encouraging the
learning and understanding of such documents as the Bill of Rights and knowing the Pledge
of Allegiance, which many children had never heard, prior to the September 11,
2001attacks. Good citizens can be Atheists,
Agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans and any faith, why exclude their moral tenants from
the bill? Some of these traditions are even
older than the 10 commandments.
Posting an Abrahamic moral code in the classroom will not
create patriotic citizens or create a better classroom environment. And apparently, based on the amount of religious
literature left openly visible in some classes, public school teachers were never informed
that the goal of this bill was to promote good citizenship and not religion. I ask our elected officials if it is
imperative to create the best possible environment for learning in North Carolinas
public schools, should we not protect the self-esteem and spiritual health of all
our students? This journalist believes we
should avoid the entanglement of religion and government in all places but most of all our
public schools where people from all spiritual backgrounds come together for the goal of
education, not spiritual enlightenment.
Kara Mueller is an interfaith-nondenominational minister
in Raleigh, North Carolina. Who, in light of the North Carolina budget crisis, is appalled
that this could waste any tax dollars being challenged in the court system.
Copyright © 2002, All Rights Reserved by Kara
- Civil Liberties in School
Displays Entangle Ten
Commandments, First Amendment
And State Article
Schools Post Ten Commandments
House Bill 195
House Bill 195
Which Ten Commandments?